By Mitchell Block | SydneysBuzz January 17, 2013 at 9:30AM
Vol. I Issue 6
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Note: See Issues 1, 2, 3, and 4 for reviews and clips of the Academy documentary films and short films. Additional reviews of the documentary features follow in this issue.
Best documentary feature
5 Broken Cameras Emad Burnat and Guy Davidi
The Gatekeepers Nominees to be determined *See note below
How to Survive a Plague Nominees to be determined
The Invisible War Nominees to be determined
Searching for Sugar Man Nominees to be determined
Best documentary short subject
Inocente Sean Fine and Andrea Nix Fine
Kings Point Sari Gilman and Jedd Wider
Mondays at Racine Cynthia Wade and Robin Honan
Open Heart Kief Davidson and Cori Shepherd Stern
Redemption Jon Alpert and Matthew O'Neill
Best animated short film
Adam and Dog Minkyu Lee
Fresh Guacamole PES
Head over Heels Timothy Reckart and Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly
Maggie Simpson in The Longest Daycare David Silverman
Paperman John Kahrs
Best live action short film
Asad Bryan Buckley and Mino Jarjoura
Buzkashi Boys Sam French and Ariel Nasr
Curfew Shawn Christensen
Death of a Shadow (Dood van een Schaduw) Tom Van Avermaet and Ellen De Waele
Henry Yan England
Achievement in music written for motion pictures (Original song) from a documentary
Before My Time from The documentary feature Chasing Ice Music and Lyric by J. Ralph
Note: *Nominees to be determined* The Documentary Brand gives the nomination to the individual(s) most involved in the key creative aspects of the filmmaking process. A maximum of two persons may be designated as nominees, one of whom must be the credited director who exercised directorial control, and the other of whom must have a producer or director credit. If a producer is named, that individual must have performed a major portion of the producing functions, in accordance with Academy producer criteria. No more than two statuettes will normally be given in the Documentary Feature category. All individuals with a “Producer” or “Produced by” credit on films that reach the semifinal round will automatically be vetted.
The Documentary Branch Executive Committee will determine which producers, if any, are eligible to receive an Oscar. In the unlikely event of a dispute, filmmakers may appeal the committee’s decision. In extremely rare circumstances, a third statuette may be awarded.
Production companies or persons with the screen credit of executive producer, co-producer or any credit other than director or producer shall not be eligible as nominees for the motion picture.
DGA Documentary Award Nominations
KIRBY DICK The Invisible War
This is Mr. Dick’s first DGA Award nomination.
MALIK BENDJELLOUL Searching For Sugar Man
This is Mr. Bendjelloul’s first DGA Award nomination.
LAUREN GREENFIELD The Queen of Versailles
This is Ms. Greenfield’s first DGA Award nomination.
DAVID FRANCE How To Survive A Plague
This is Mr. France’s first DGA Award nomination.
ALISON KLAYMAN Ai WeiWei: Never Sorry
This is Ms. Klayman’s first DGA Award nomination.
& One Academy Short Listed Documentary Reviewed
The Gatekeepers, directed by Dror Moreh
Documentary Feature Nominee
Six former heads of Israel’s domestic secret service agency, the Shin Bet, share their insights and reflect publicly on their actions and decisions in The Gatekeepers, a film by Dror Moreh. These six heads of the Shin Bet stood at the center of Israel's decision-making process in all matters pertaining to security. They worked closely with every Israeli prime minister, and their assessments and insights had—and continue to have—a profound impact on Israeli policy. The Gatekeepers is an exclusive account of their successes and failures.
I find The Gatekeepers remarkable. Not for its craft but for its concept and vision. Imagine
J Edger Hoover talking about his tenure at the FBI, his successes and his failures, his interactions with the Presidents and members of Congress, and his critical self-evaluation of his mission and how his agency’s work affected our nation. Imagine. Dror Moreh accomplished this feat when he convinced these six surviving members of the Shin Bet, to speak on camera.
The film provides a historical perspective of Israel that is both candid and critical of the successive governments in this rare Middle Eastern democracy. The Shin Bet was created in 1949 by David Ben-Gurion’s government to focus on the internal affairs of Israel and evolved into dealing with counterterrorism and intelligence gathering in the West Bank and Gaza.
These intelligence heads, like ours, report to the President/Prime Minister. They are not part of the military complex. It is this context that gives this work its power. We hear the story of Israel’s struggle to protect itself from both its internal and external enemies; the bombers, terrorists, agents and others who worked to destroy this small country. These men are not glamorous or like the fictional heads of the spy agencies we have seen in James Bond and Bourne films. They are bald or balding grandfather-types. Articulate, highly educated, calm and yet we know that they protected Israel from its enemies even if they had them killed.
This is one of the strongest of the nominated docs. It raises significant issues of personal responsibilities. Despite the lack of oversight we don’t feel that this is an organization gone amuck like the Catholic Church not protecting children or the US Military not protecting its members from sexual harassment. We see these articulate men as guardians and protectors of their nation steadfastly doing their duty within the confines of their moral beliefs. What is scary about The Gatekeepers is that clearly there could have been abuses and wrongs done by the Shin Bet if these six had less character or their mission was redefined by the government without regard to moral or ethical standards. The film on reflection is troubling for regardless of how the spectator might feel about Israel it forces us to look at this conflict through the lenses of these six guardians and we can only wonder what they don’t tell us about what they did in the name of their country.
Director: Dror Moreh
Camera: Avner Shahaf
Producers: Dror Moreh, Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky
Co Producer: Anna Van Der Wee
Sound: Amos Zipori
Sound Design: Aex Claude
Music: Ab Ovo, Jérôme Chassagnard, Régis Baillet
Editor: Oron Adar
Production Companies: Dror Moreh Productions, Les Films du Poisson, Cinephil
In Co-Production with: Mac Guff, Wild Heart Productions, Arte France, IBA, NDR, RTBF
With the support of: CNC, Media, Région Ile-de-France, Procirep, Angoa, The Rabinovich Foundation for the Arts – Cinema Project
Distribution: Sony Classics
The House I Live In, directed by Eugene Jarecki
Short Listed Documentary Feature for Academy Award nomination
Eugene Jarecki, whose previous films looked at the military industrial complex (Why We Fight and The Trials of Henry Kissinger), won the Grand Jury Prize for Documentary at Sundance in both 2005 and 2010. The film tackles difficult material. Material that has been in scores of documentaries and television shows over the years. Yet Jarecki, using his personal experience, a wealth of interviews and strong case studies, builds a compelling case for changing the sentencing guidelines for crack (and cocaine) and for dealing with both addiction and the underlying causes of addiction. Jarecki is a skillful filmmaker who has picked a vast and complex subject and has created a work that while rich in content moves along at a good pace although it might have been stronger if it had tried to do less. The film editor Paul Frost and the composer Robert Miller do an excellent job building strong sequences with evocative music. It was nicely shot by Sam Cullman and Derek Hallquist. Richard Abramowitz’s Abramorama handled the distribution and was successful getting the work out which is never easy for such an issue oriented film.
Director, Producer, Screenwriter: Eugene Jarecki
Producers: Melinda Shopsin, Sam Cullman, Christopher St. John
Executive Producers: Eugene Jarecki, Nick Fraser, Joslyn Barnes, Danny Glover, Russell Simmons, Roy Ackerman, John Legend, Sally Jo Feifer, Nick Fraser
Camera: Sam Cullman, Derek Hallquist
Sound: Matthew Freed, Art Jaso
Music: Robert Milller
Editor: Paul Frost
Production Companies: Charlotte Street Films, ZDF Enterprises, Independent Television Services, BBC, Aljazeera Documentary Channel, VPRO, Special Broadcasting Service Corporation, Louverture Films, NHK
Distribution (US): Abramorama Entertainment, Snag Films
How to Survive a Plague, directed by David France
Documentary Feature Nominee
How to Survive a Plague by writer and filmmaker David France tells the story of how two coalitions came together to lobby for effective treatments and funding for treatments of AIDS in the late 1980s when it was evident that the US government and its health and other agencies were not being very effective dealing with the AIDS epidemic. The coalitions, ACT UP and TAG (Treatment Action Group) helped to make AIDS more treatable. While there is still no cure for AIDS and thousands of people globally still die from the virus, it is now possible to prolong life with treatments that have been developed.
Despite having no scientific training, these self-made activists infiltrated the pharmaceutical industry and helped identify promising new drugs, moving them from experimental trials to patients in record time. With access to never-before-seen archival footage from the 1980s and '90s, filmmaker David France puts the viewer smack in the middle of the controversial actions, the heated meetings, the heartbreaking failures, and the exultant breakthroughs. Faced with their own mortality an improbable group of young men and women, many of them HIV-positive took on Washington and the medical establishment.
While there have been a handful of outstanding films dealing with the AIDS epidemic including Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt, The Broadcast Tapes of Dr. Peter and Silverlake Life, to name a few, How to Survive a Plague picks up on the story begun in the landmark Common Threads and updates the struggle, looking at the quest to find a treatment and possibly a cure for this vicious disease. The film weaves together stories of activism and shows how a small determined group can effect change not just nationally but globally. While the film is not as well made as Common Threads or Dr. Peter, it’s powerful. The archival footage manages to capture some of the key figures of Act Up and TAG showing actions as they take place. Instead of relying on talking heads to tell this amazing story, it is presented with footage shot as the story unfolded. This footage and its solid editing distinguishes this film from so many of the works that have tried to tell this story.
Few documentaries have such powerful antagonists, the government, incompetence, a lack of urgency on the part of the medical community and fear. Throw in homophobia and it is evident that the dramatic actions of these heroes saved hundreds of thousands of possible victims from this mostly sexually spread plague.
My only serious criticism of this documentary is its failure to be clearer that the plague continues, that there is no cure for HIV/AIDS and that the community continues to give a false sense of hope. Currently the CDC states:
” ..estimates that 1,148,200 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 207,600 (18.1%) who are unaware of their infection1. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level—particularly among certain groups.
HIV Incidence(new infections): The estimated incidence of HIV has remained stable overall in recent years, at about 50,000 new HIV infections per year.2 Within the overall estimates, however, some groups are affected more than others. MSM (men who have sex with men) continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected.”
This information could have been contained in the last few minutes of this powerful work, to inspire and warn the audience that testing is critical and that safe sex is still the only way to contain AIDS.
David France, Director, Producer
David France is an award-winning journalist and New York Times best-selling author who has been writing about AIDS since 1982 and today is one of the best-known chroniclers of the epidemic. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Newsweek, GQ, and New York magazine, where he is a contributing editor, and has received the National Headliner Award and the GLAAD Media Award, among others. Several films have been inspired by his work, most recently the Emmy-nominated Showtime film Our Fathers, for which he received a WGA nomination. He is at work on a major history of AIDS, due from Alfred A. Knopf in 2013. Based on decades of reporting, How to Survive a Plague is his directorial debut.
Director: David France
Writers: David France, Todd Woody Richman, Tyler H. Walk
Producers: David France, Howard Gertler
Executive Producers: Dan Cogan, Joy A. Tomchin
Co-Producer: Todd Woody Richman
Camera: Derek Wieshahn
Sound: Stuart Deutsch, Topher Reifeiss
Original Music: Stuart Bogie
Editor: Todd Woody Richman, Tyler H. Walk
Production Companies: Public Square Films, Ninety Thousand Words
Distribution (US): Sundance Selects
Short Notes and Update:
The International Documentary Association in Los Angeles presents Doc U: The Doc Reporter
Navigating the Intersection of Documentary and Journalism
Moderated by: Karin Skellwagen (The Brooks Institute)
Sarah Burns (The Central Park Five)
Michael Donaldson (Partner, Donaldson & Callif)
David France (How To Survive A Plague)
For information: http://doc-u-jan-2013-la.eventbrite.com/
Sundance Announces 2013 International Documentary Competition:
Fallen City/ China (Director: Qi Zhao) — Fallen City spans four years to reveal how three families who survived the 2008 Sichuan earthquake to embark on a journey searching for hope, purpose, identity, and to rebuild their lives in a new China torn between tradition and modernity. North American Premiere
Fire in the Blood/ India (Director: Dylan Mohan Gray) — In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Western governments and pharmaceutical companies blocked low-cost antiretroviral drugs from reaching AIDS-stricken Africa, causing 10 million or more unnecessary deaths. An improbable group of people decided to fight back. North American Premiere
Google and the World Brain/ Spain, United Kingdom (Director: Ben Lewis) — In the most ambitious Internet project ever conceived, Google is working to scan every book in the world. Google says it is building a library for mankind. But some are trying to stop it, claiming that Google may have other intentions. World Premiere
The Machine Which Makes Everything Disappear/ Georgia, Germany (Director: Tinatin Gurchiani) — A film director casting a 15-23-year-old protagonist visits villages and cities to meet people who answer her call. She follows those who prove to be interesting enough through various dramatic and funny situations. North American Premiere
The Moo Man/ United Kingdom (Directors: Andy Heathcote, Heike Bachelier) — A year in the life of heroic farmer Steve, scene stealing Ida (queen of the herd), and a supporting cast of 55 cows. When Ida falls ill, Steve’s optimism is challenged and their whole way of life is at stake. World Premiere
Pussy Riot – A Punk Prayer/ Russian Federation, United Kingdom (Directors: Mike Lerner, Maxim Pozdorovkin) — Three young women face seven years in a Russian prison for a satirical performance in a Moscow cathedral. But who is really on trial: the three young artists or the society they live in? World Premiere
A River Changes Course/ Cambodia, U.S.A. (Director: Kalyanee Mam) — Three young Cambodians struggle to overcome the crushing effects of deforestation, overfishing, and overwhelming debt in this devastatingly beautiful story of a country reeling from the tragedies of war and rushing to keep pace with a rapidly expanding world. World Premiere
Salma/ United Kingdom, India (Director: Kim Longinotto) — When Salma, a young girl in South India, reached puberty, her parents locked her away. Millions of girls all over the world share the same fate. Twenty-five years later, Salma has fought her way back to the outside world. World Premiere
The Square (Al Midan)/ Egypt, U.S.A. (Director: Jehane Noujaim) — What does it mean to risk your life for your ideals? How far will five revolutionaries go in defending their beliefs in the fight for their nation? World Premiere
The Stuart Hall Project/ United Kingdom (Director: John Akomfrah) — Antinuclear campaigner, New Left activist and founding father of Cultural Studies, this documentary interweaves 70 years of Stuart Hall’s film, radio and television appearances, and material from his private archive to document a memorable life and construct a portrait of Britain’s foremost radical intellectual. World Premiere
The Summit/ Ireland, United Kingdom (Director: Nick Ryan) — Twenty-four climbers converged at the last stop before summiting the most dangerous mountain on Earth. Forty-eight hours later, 11 had been killed or simply vanished. Had one, Ger McDonnell, stuck to the climbers' code, he might still be alive. International Premiere
Who is Dayani Cristal?/ United Kingdom (Director: Marc Silver) — An anonymous body in the Arizona desert sparks the beginning of a real-life human drama. The search for its identity leads us across a continent to seek out the people left behind and the meaning of a mysterious tattoo. World Premiere. DAY ONE FILM
Producer’s Guild Announces Nominations for the Award for Outstanding Producer of Documentary Theatrical Motion Pictures and Non-Fiction Television:
A People Uncounted(Urbinder Films)
Producers: Marc Swenker, Aaron Yeger
The Gatekeepers(Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Estelle Fialon, Philippa Kowarsky, Dror Moreh
The Island President(Samuel Goldwyn Films)
Producers: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen
The Other Dream Team(The Film Arcade)
Producers: Marius Markevicius, Jon Weinbach
Searching For Sugar Man(Sony Pictures Classics)
Producers: Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn
Nominations for the Award for Outstanding Producer of
Producers: Prudence Glass, Susan Lacy, Julie Sacks
Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations(Travel Channel)
Producers: Anthony Bourdain, Christopher Collins, Lydia Tenaglia, Sandy Zweig
Deadliest Catch(Discovery Channel)
Producers: Thom Beers, Jeff Conroy, Sean Dash, John Gray, Sheila McCormack, Bill Pruitt, Decker Watson
Inside the Actors Studio(Bravo)
Producers: James Lipton, Shawn Tesser, Jeff Wurtz
Producers: Rhett Bachner, Becky Blitz, Mark Burnett, Bill Gaudsmith, Yun Lingner, Brien Meagher, Clay Newbill, Jim Roush, Laura Skowlund, Paul Sutera, Patrick Wood
BAFTA Short and Documentary Feature Nominations (British Academy of Film and Television Arts, London)
The ImposterBart Layton, Dimitri Doganis
Marley Kevin Macdonald, Steve Bing, Charles Steel
McCullin David Morris, Jacqui Morris
Searching for Sugar Man Malik Bendjelloul, Simon Chinn
West of Memphis Amy Berg
Here to Fall Kris Kelly, Evelyn McGrath
I’m Fine Thanks Eamonn O'Neill
The Making of Longbird Will Anderson, Ainslie Henderson
The Curse Fyzal Boulifa, Gavin Humphries
Good Night Muriel d'Ansembourg, Eva Sigurdardottir
Swimmer Lynne Ramsay, Peter Carlton, Diarmid Scrimshaw
Tumult Johnny Barrington, Rhianna Andrews
The Voorman Problem Mark Gill, Baldwin Li
The Broadcast Film Critics Association (BFCA)
Documentary Feature Nominations
Queen of Versailles
Searching for Sugar Man (Winner)
The Central Park Five
West of Memphis
Credits: Editing by Jessica Just for SydneysBuzz
Block Doc Workshops in Los Angeles February 2013 IDA Doc U
The International Documentary Association will be hosting Documentary Funding and Documentary Tune-Up Workshops with Block on February 9/10. http://www.documentary.org/news/february-documentary-producing-workshops-mitchell-block
Mitchell Block specializes in conceiving, producing, marketing & distributing independent features & consulting. He is an expert in placing both completed works into distribution & working with producers to make projects fundable. He conducts regular workshops in film producing in Los Angeles and most recently in Maine, Russia and in Myanmar (Burma).
Poster Girl, produced by Block was nominated for a Documentary Academy Award and selected by the IDA as the Best Doc Short 2011. It was also nominated for two Emmy Awards and aired on HBO. He is an executive producer of the Emmy Award-winning PBS series Carrier, a 10-hour series that he conceived & co-created. Block is a graduate of Tisch School and Columbia University’s Graduate School of Business. He is a member of Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, the Television Academy, a founding member of BAFTA-LA and has been teaching at USC School of Cinematic Arts since 1979. Currently Block teaches a required class in the USC Peter Stark Producing Program.
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